Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Ji Kae Lobak – Best in Sungai Petani… and some even say, Malaysia

Sungai Petani Glutton Street, Sungai Petani, Kedah, Malaysia

Like many Penangites, I am very proud of my state – even more so now that it’s finally under competent management.

The hero Penang needs, wants and deserves!

But, regardless of which government is currently in power, I’ve always been proud to the point of arrogance when it comes to Penang food. It’s the best. No question. They don’t call us Malaysia’s food capital for nothing.

So I naturally scoffed when Lady Fartsalot first suggested that a lobak stall in her home town of Sungai Petani is better than any others in Malaysia… Penang included. In fact, I mentally loaded up several put-downs before I even saw the stall.

I even had this saved in my phone, ready to flash at her midway into my first bite.

But then we actually went to the stall and my confidence faltered a little when I saw the crowd in front of it. Though he opens past lunchtime, about 2-3, there’ll usually be a hungry mob waiting when the stall owner arrives. They would grab the food directly from the plastic tubs he brought them in, all before he even has a chance to finish setting up.

He will eventually take everything out of their tubs and arrange them on the stall counter.

By the time he gets his oil heated up, there’ll already be a row of plates waiting, each piled high with lobak items waiting for him fry till crispy and golden.

The first time we went, we ordered a huge selection of nearly everything available. I had expected to pay maybe RM25 for the whole platter. I was taken aback slightly when the price barely reached RM15. Okay, that’s fine… the price is lower than it would be in Penang. It’s to be expected; people in rural areas live closer to their food source.

The platter in this picture, taken more recently, was only about RM10.

But surely… surely the taste can’t measure up to the high standards we have in Penang, right? I nervously took a bite. Damn him, it was actually really good. The world fell away around me. All my putdowns forgotten. Blood pounded in my ears as I furiously racked my brain for a lobak stall in Penang that could top this… and kept coming up empty.

In the dark days following this first encounter, I obsessively sought out the best lobak in Penang. I asked everyone. I got my dad to take me to his favourite place. Time and time again I had to begrudgingly admit that we can’t decisively beat some unknown in Sungai Petani.

It’s been years now, and I am still looking. I still believe that somewhere in Penang is a lobak stall that will trump this Sungai Petani upstart in terms of variety, price and taste.

In the mean time, to my fellow Penangites, this is what we’re up against.

One of the best items at the stall doesn’t even contain meat. The beancurd is smooth and silky; a soft and creamy interior with a slightly crunchy skin. One of the best I’ve ever had.
Cha tan – Cantonese for ‘bomb’ – is a baseball-sized sphere of deliciousness. Its crunchy exterior shell is filled with what tastes like a yam-and-meat paste, and a whole salted duck egg yolk in the center. Despite its name, its flavour is quite mild. I believe this item is unique to this stall, so it’s a must-have if you eat here.

The cha tan before it’s sliced.
Lady Fartsalot’s mom’s favourite: a prawn and salted duck egg yolk combo.
Regular lobak – firm and meaty, a match for any in Penang.

Another lobak stall staple: the prawn fritter. This has very little prawn meat in it, but the batter has been infused with prawn flavour. It's nice and crunchy without feeling oily.
My favourite: lobak with seaweed. The radish and carrot are not crunchy, but rather tender and juicy… and add a touch of sweetness. The seaweed flavour is very distinct. The ‘meat’ portion seems to be the same yam-and-meat paste he uses in the cha tan.

They also offer fish balls, fish fillets, lobak stuffed with century eggs and several more. Every time we visit Sungai Petani, a visit to this stall is one of the things I look forward to.

There’s no question that this is the best lobak in Sungai Petani. But the best in Malaysia? Better than Penang? I will never give up searching for a lobak stall in Penang to prove otherwise. If you have a suggestion for me, do share it in the comments below.

Snack-sized review
Very good lobak stall in Sungai Petani with plenty of variety and low, low prices. Some items are unique to this stall. Possibly the best lobak stall in Malaysia.


Hours: Opens around 2pm to 3pm, till early evening.
Price: Two big eaters can be fed till they’re stuffed and cry for mercy… all for less than RM15.


  1. I may be biased since I am from Sungei Petani myself, but I have to agree with Lady Fartsalot, this Lobak indeed is the best Lobak (I have tasted). I had been eating this Lobak since I was elementary school and I could never had enough of it. Definitely better than those in Penang. The owner used to sell his food in evening but looks like he switched to selling during lunch time instead. No wonder I kept missing him when I went home last year...

  2. No offense but the Lobak here is lousy. The meat is not firm and its minced meat la . Penang one better. The prawn fritters also lousy soft soft one.

    1. Sorry “Anonymous”! I have to disagree with your disagreement.

      I am not sure if the “here” you mentioned in your response referred to Sungai Petani in general or you meant this particular lobak store specifically. If it was the latter, then I don’t think I can agree with you.

      I do agree that the quality of the hawker food in Sungai Petani had kind of lost its touch in general since many of the older generation hawkers retired. But that is also generally true too about the hawker foods in Penang, if not a common scenario in many small towns of Malaysia.

      However, this lobak store of Sungai Petani is one hidden gem of this little small town that I am willing to defend fiercely about because I am a big lobak fan and had the chance to try lobak of various places from north to south of Malaysia, including those in some of the more famous eateries in Penang. The lobak of this store is the only lobak I have missed dearly up to date.

      Sorry, so far I have not found any thing in Penang that even comes close to being an alternative to the lobak of this store. At least not yet. The Cha tan, Prawn and salted egg and Lobak with Seaweed in the picture shown in the article above for instance, are among those special items unique only to this store (he had been selling these items more than 30 years ago).

      Most lobak vendors in Penang, on the other hand, only has some thin and skinny lobak, sausages that filled with red artificial food coloring and very dried and non-flavorful fish cakes or fish-cake-made items. And the “Most” includes those at the famous Kimberley Street.